Home Page Election 2019 News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Store Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
Election 2019

AFN’s Bellegarde calls on parties to reflect First Nations’ priorities in political agenda

By Beatrice Paez      

In a 16-page document released that’s entitled, 'Honouring Promises,' the AFN, which represents more than 600 First Nations, charts out its expectations of the incoming government.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde identified climate change as one of the most pressing challenges facing the country. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Meade
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

OTTAWA—Assembly of First Nations national chief Perry Bellegarde says he expects whichever party forms government to build on the progress towards closing the gap that separates the realities faced by Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. 

In a 16-page document released on Monday that’s entitled, “Honouring Promises,” Mr. Bellegarde highlighted a set of priorities that he hopes will “shape the dialogue” of the upcoming election, which will be called sometime this week. 

“Honouring Promises” charts the AFN’s expectations of the next government over four years, including calls for a more inclusive process for developing climate policies, discussions on revenue sharing, and the creation a federal treaty commissioner’s office that will support the implementation of treaties. 

Mr. Bellegarde identified climate change as among the most pressing issues, saying that he expects First Nations communities to be actively involved in developing environmental policies. 

“First Nations must be first responders in this emergency,” he told reporters after releasing the document at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa. “We have to develop a vision of environmental stewardship that is global and holistic, that takes us beyond existing targets and timelines.”

In its first two years in office, on the economic front, the AFN wants to see the next government include First Nations leadership in policy discussions at the ministerial level and to participate in the development of clean technology. 

Though Mr. Bellegarde pointed to a number of the Trudeau government’s passage of the Indigenous languages and child welfare bills as signs of progress, he said the passage of legislation that enshrines the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should be high on the agenda of the incoming government. Such legislation, sponsored by NDP MP Romeo Saganash, died on the Order Paper in the Senate’s hands. It would have sought to harmonize Canada’s laws with Indigenous rights.

“We expect the next government to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples through legislation that’s at least as strong as Bill C-262,” Mr. Bellegarde told reporters on the Hill. “This is about upholding our rights, rights that are too often recognized but not respected.” 

Implementing UNDRIP into law would ensure that “any proposed project” has the necessary support from Indigenous communities, Mr. Bellegarde said, alluding to the legal challenges that have dogged the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. (In a potential setback for the project, the Federal Court of Appeal last week agreed to hear six out of 12 appeals from Indigenous and environmental organizations over concerns that consultations with First Nations groups were inadequate.)

“[UNDRIP] It sets out the minimum standards for dignity, survival, and well-being of Indigenous peoples,” Mr. Bellegarde. “All impacted parties need to agree on any proposed project or development before it begins, and if it proceeds, it does so in a way that respects our rights. Upholding that standard will prevent court court conflicts.”

The Trudeau government has committed to passing such legislation, if it secures another mandate. 

In the last election, turnout on reserves jumped to 61.5 per cent from 47.4 per cent in 2011. The AFN identified 51 ridings that it targeted in the hopes of influencing the election. Of those ridings, Mr. Bellegarde previously told The Hill Times, there were 27 it had a measurable impact on. Mr. Bellegarde said that he wants to see that number go up in October.

As head of the AFN, which represents more than 600 First Nations across Canada, Mr. Bellegarde isn’t in a position to endorse any party leader. But, in encouraging people to vote, Mr. Bellegarde said, he asks them to assess the strengths of each individual platform: “Look at all the party platforms who is making strong statements regarding UN declaration, restorative justice.” 

When asked by a reporter about whether many First Nations people still share his optimistic outlook for the future of reconciliation after four years with the Trudeau government, Mr. Bellegarde said, accessibility has been unprecedented. “All I can go by is what happened in the last four years. Before, how many times did the prime minister ever come to a chiefs assembly? This prime minister has come three times,” he said. “That’s unprecedented in my experience. If you don’t have access, you’re not going to bring about change. Access has been there, and in that regard, it’s a step forward.”

The Hill Times

Beatrice Paez

Beatrice Paez is the digital editor at The Hill Times.
- bpaez@hilltimes.com

Wilson-Raybould reflects on reconciliation, SNC-Lavalin affair in new book

News|By Palak Mangat
At more than 200 pages, Jody Wilson-Raybould’s book draws on speeches, lectures, and other pieces on Indigenous issues she’s penned over the last 10 years.

Liberals gambling on help from provinces to fulfill new daycare promise

The $535-million pledged won’t cover all of the costs of the Liberals’ promised daycare reforms.

‘I didn’t think it was racist at the time,’ says apologetic PM, confirming he will not step down amid scathing ‘brownface’ Time report

News|By Mike Lapointe
The Prime Minister, who told reporters he only found out the story was breaking hours before, says he's 'going to be asking Canadians to forgive me for what I did.'

Pakistani envoy urges Canada, world to be ‘more forceful’ with India on ‘humanitarian disaster’ in Kashmir

Pakistan has ‘regularly’ raised the issue with Canadian counterparts, says Raza Bashir Tarar, but the ‘festering’ situation in the ‘highly charged’ region is only getting worse.

First debate a dress rehearsal PM hopefuls needed to prepare for prime time, say pundits

One thing is clear, marketing experts say Andrew Scheer will have to be more animated when he debates against Justin Trudeau, especially with his former leadership rival, Maxime Bernier, now in the mix.

Liberal, Conservative campaigns ‘at war,’ Scheer ‘vigorously swinging to land a punch’ on Trudeau: pollster

News|By Abbas Rana
It's only week two of the campaign and already the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, and the Greens have all had to drop candidates over offensive or controversial past remarks.

Powerful Senate committee owes public answers on harassment plans, Meredith report, say Independents

Conservative Sen. Denise Batters says it was necessary to discuss matters in private to protect the confidentiality of victims, while Independents say it would have been possible to strike a balance and be transparent.

Savoie’s new ‘magnum opus’ book argues federal public service has been ‘knocked off its moorings’

News|By Mike Lapointe
A culmination of three years of work, the book takes stock of challenges facing Canadian democracy, including the decline of Cabinet government, centralization of the PMO, and 'fault lines' in the public service.

Arctic policy framework released ‘last minute’ ahead of October election, say experts

News|By Neil Moss
Liberal MP Larry Bagnell says he thinks the timing wasn't due to the federal government's framework on the Arctic and Canada's North being rushed, but rather waiting on territorial partners co-developing the package.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.